Show: Day Three (22nd of May, 2003)
So, I have promised to tell more about Korean and Chinese manufacturers" offers. First, I got to the stand of SAMSUNG. It wasn"t far from entrance, and besides it was so stupid to miss it - we all know how popular the Samsung 9500 EmVia and ViaCI were last year (despite of the fact that it couldn"t scan Astra satellite without locking up and the picture quality is really bad, noticeable even on a 14" TV).
If you don"t know - there actually are few Samsung corporations, sharing one common brandname. Those different parts even compete with each other, though they are all belong to one holding. Funny fact for us Europeans - in Korea the Samsung isn"t only in production of electronics, they also produce many other items, and most of Wedding Chapels in Korea are under control of Samsung.
Same story about satellite industry. There are two parts in this business - Samsung Corporation, and Samsung Electronics. Both parties produce satellite receivers, different range from each other, they even compete with each other! Just compare two sites:
As we can see, Samsung Corporation went a straight way - they have developed a line of set-top-boxes from FTA to Common Interface, and Viaccess embedded. That"s it, no tricks, no gimmicks. And this line of receivers is not so popular at the market. You will hardly see any of these boxes at the sat-shops.
OK, let"s compare to the Samsung Electronics. They have a range from FTA 9400 model, Viaccess embedded 9400 model, to last year"s favourites 9500 EmVia and 9500 Via CI.
What is noticeable, by some strange accident, only two weeks after those receivers hit the shops - somebody have published new software that allows to decrypt not just Viaccess and Conax, but also SECA/Mediaguard and Nargavision. Also, there is also "five in one" function in the 9500 ViaCI - just buy any Irdeto EuroCAM, and receiver will work with FunCard 5 in 1, 6 in 1. It was such a lucky coincidence for Samsung that such software has been published just in time! ;-) That coincidence helped marketing a lot and made such boxes quite a hit in 2002, so only small number of demanding customers were annoyed by serious bugs, and picture quality.
The 9500 ViaCI receiver was so popular, that even clones were produced in China! Take a look at the picture (taken earlier this year)!
Looks 100% like a Sammy 9500, has another label, and different software, very simple one. But I wouldn"t be very surprised if by another lucky (for Chinese manufacturer :-) ) coincidence it is possible to upload Samsung"s 1.18 software. I didn"t check it out, but why otherwise create clone?
Anyway, that says about popularity.
No secret, in 2002 many customers started looking forward for the Samsung 9600 model (with embedded HDD), after it was announced. Probably, they believed that there will be same features as in 9500, plus PVR (hard disc drive) embedded. So far it isn"t at shops, but I saw a sample at the Dubai GEMEX. What can I say? Same picture quality as in 9500 (i.e. not good if you have TV 20" and up), and PVR software is of first generation (Topfield starts to produce PVR receivers third generation software already).
Surprisingly, at the Cab&Sat show the Samsung Electronics guys said that they promote now the 9601 model (picture above). Possibly, the 9600 is abandoned and won"t go into mass production, as it is with one tuner and too late for the market. So, they are going to produce the 9601 that have TWO tuners. Well, it isn"t much to talk about, as software isn"t nearly finished, to early to talk about features,and I couldn"t check whether the picture quality will be same… Noticeable, not only satellite version, but cable version will be released (cable receiver is on the pictire).
As I told already about clones and other means of marketing of satellite equipment, here"s another picture for you:
What do you see there? :-) Probably, you see famous MTI Blue Line LNBFs. But it"s not them. There are LNBFs from Quanzhou Shenzhuo Electronic Co (China) on this picture, he-he. Chameleons…
So, why don"t we take a peek at the MTI"s stand, what do they offer? This year - there was no MTI stand, but I have located some interesting yellow stand.
This stand presented few companies together: Gilbertini (if I remember it right), MTI, Grundig, Inverto, Lemon. Not bad for one place. Actually, the history is simple: all the distribution of MTI (www.mti.com.tw) products is controlled by the Luxembourg-based FTA company. This company started to produce some receivers in 2001/2002 (but I don"t think that FTA is good brandname for the receiver, especially if it isn"t Free-To-Air), also they have purchased the Grundig"s part that used to produce the Grundig LNBFs. And, they also have acquired the Lemon company (Germany) after that company went bankrupt… In 1998/1999 Lemon used to produce the only known to the market set-top box called Volksbox @lpha that was able to receive digital FTA channels, analog channels, and the ADR (Astra Digital Radio). It was quite expensive, though, being produced in Germany. And the export to other countries was too low.
Now, under FTA supervision - the company is being revived. There are few models presented. However, the production and assembly is done in Germany, making it still expensive, and I am not sure of any exports now, too. But the FTA are good in distribution, so maybe we will see more of Lemon VolksBoxes, who knows.
All new players at digital set-top boxes scene usually start with FTA receiver, as it is simply cheapest model to develop… But there are too many companies at the market, who have just two models - FTA and Common Interface. It is hard to sell "just FTA receiver" nowadays (market demands more advanced models, with encryption systems and/or hard disk embedded), as there"s no room to cut down the prices, anymore. Some try to promote the products utilizing new design.
As you can see, some designers have got an idea to make a STB that can be also be "standing" on it"s side. Something new, but it is enough for marketing an FTA and CI models?
To make the development of set-top boxes more simple and fast - the IBM and Sony have joined their forces now.
IBM - is a supplier of the Power PC CPU, already used in receivers like EchoStar, Praxis, Topfield, Dreambox and many others. Sony Semiconductors - is a supplier of chips that are essential for other functions in an STB. As they claim, they have developed a new reference platform that allows to cut down the time for creating a new receiver from 12 months to 3 month time. Well, if that is for real - than it is really interesting. Saving time is saving money. If somebody is ready to make new boxes now, at these times when the market is down since 2001 / beginning of 2001… But, what the hell, if anybody is up to develop a new STB now - then saving time for development is everything, when the competition is so high.
Also, I have met the company called Seodu Inchip, I know them for a long time already.
Firstly, they were presenting the chipsets for different kinds of AC-3 (5.1) sound decoders, and those receivers/recorders as ready products for Dolby Digital Home Theatre systems. Recently, they have got a brandname of a NextWave company, already well known for their analog, digital FTA and digital-analog receivers. Now, they present completely new range of the receivers, under old and popular NextWave brand. I think it wasn"t so humble to present "The first real 2 tuner PVR with PIP", as the Topfield tf-5000 PVR has already been presented with same features before. (Today SATMANIA.COM have received a sample of the 5000 PVR, eventually, and that means that a full test will be published, SATMANIA.COM guys are so good in testing and writing reports. :) However, if SEODU thinks that their receiver is also a major hit at the market - why don"t they send a sample to SATMANIA for review, so it will be possible to compare the features!)
If I remember it right - they said that the receiver will be based on a Linux Operation System. (?) Just not sure about that. If it is right - than they follow the way of Dreambox, just with a better hardware. On the other hand, Topfield has the TAP applications function, which allows to import ant executable modules into receiver, and run them any time… (Just like our Sinclair Spectrum ZX computer emulator for the Topfield 4000).
One of a few companies promoting their own British brand presented was the TECHNOMATE.
(Except the Manhattan brand from Eurosat, which is quite known already).
It looks like Technomate brand takes a good start at the UK market now. It is even able to fight with Asian/Middle East brands expansion into UK and Europe. Anyway, at the "low-end" Hackney Market near the London Stadium (in a poor condition) - only this British brand was presented. All others were from Dubai. (Read more about that Middle East expansion in tomorrow"s issue).
The AAP company presented the new set-top box concept: box with FTA receiver, embedded USB port, and embedded Ethernet card.
It is being marketed as a part of home entertainment system, that includes a home computer. It is easy to imagine the situation as follows: the box used just like a tuner to send all the datastream by IP to the computer, where the stream is recorded, or processed (decoded) as needed, and then sent back to set-top-box for output to TV. Great? Yeah. But, maybe it is more simple to buy the SkyStar-1 card (and do all that stuff on a computer itself, no outside box needed), or get the DreamBox, and upload software needed into it…
Another possibility of the AAP box - is to broadcast the MPEG-4/DivX movies from the PC to the box and watch them on TV… (However, I don"t see why is it any better than owning a Euston DivX-100 or Technosonic MP - 101 DVD-player that can play the discs with MPEG-4/DivX movies, priced at around 200-250 Euro at soon-to-open online shop).
What I like about this AAP solution - is that it has really compact design of the mainboard, where everything needed is included… Except HDD, perhaps…
Well. Let"s call it a day. :)
Too tired now, it is 2:40 a.m. already…
Please, read new issues about that exhibition. More information will be about:
- "grey scene" : cards, CAMs, programmers
- Dream Multimedia news (will they survive long?)
- New chip to shake down the monopoly of SCM
- France Telecom: guys who FORGOT to support their own product
- Why Humax isn"t likely to exhibit anymore at Cab &Sat
- EchoStar stand news
- Middle East satellite companies expansion into UK
- Why the CONAX system is so popular now among the receivers" manufacturers
As you can see, I am doing my best to bring you an interesting info you are not likely to find anywhere else. I do hope you stay tuned.
Sergei Ogourtsov, SAT.COM.RU